Dubai: We have had to wait four years – and an extra 12 months on top of that – but finally, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will begin on 23rd July.
It’s been a long time coming and for a while it seemed like it wouldn’t come at all what with Japan battling the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed calls to cancel the Games have been getting louder and louder as the country battles a rising number of infections.
In spite of a coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo along with a poll showing that 70 per cent of the population do not want the Olympics to go ahead, the Games will begin next Friday - but will do so without any spectators able to watch any of the action. Disappointing as this may be for fans, it may actually help the athletes taking part. We saw how several players for English Premier League teams blossomed while playing at empty stadiums without the pressure and expectations of fans, and in Tokyo, we could have a similar situation.
Team Great Britain – which is taking more female athletes than men to the Games for the first time in 125 years – could prosper. From the 376 athletes selected, their largest delegation for an overseas Olympics, 175 are male and 201 are female. They have a strong squad and will be itching to do their country proud once again having been superb at the last three Olympics. At the 2008 Beijing Games they won 19 golds (total of 51 medals) then at London 2012 they excelled on home turf by claiming a record 29 golds (total of 65 medals). But it was at the 2016 Games in Rio where the British team secured their biggest ever medal haul by winning 67 out of which 27 were gold.
They have several golden hopefuls this time around and much will rest on the broad shoulders of Adam Peaty (swimming, 100 metre breaststroke). The gold winner in 2016 broke the world record for the 100 metre breaststroke twice in two days in Rio. He then won the World Championship gold in 2017 in Budapest and in 2019 in Gwangju and is Team GB’s greatest gold medal hope in Japan. While he dominates in the water, Giles Scott (sailing, finn class) will hope to continue ruling on it. He secured top spot in Rio with a day to spare and will aim to repeat that feat in Enoshima harbor. Women will be allowed to compete in the canoeing, C1 class for the first time and hoping to make a splash will be Mallory Franklin. The former gold medalist in both the World and European Championships will be doing her best to add an Olympic gold for the hat-trick.
Meanwhile, Katarina Johnson-Thompson (athletics, heptathlon) who took gold at the 2019 World Championships in Doha will be try to keep her good form going as will Dina Asher-Smith (athletics, 200 metres) whose performances in Doha saw her set new British National Records. She will want to improve on her fifth-place finish in Rio.
There will be British representation in 26 of the 33 Olympic sports and that means lots of opportunities to collect medals but there will be plenty of challenges in Tokyo. With a large squad full of quality, Team GB should be up to the task.